Hunger in the World

The following editorial was written by Andres Vallejo and published in Diario La Prensa on 10/26/09.

It seems incredible and is frightening that there are more than one billion undernourished people in the world, one hundred million more than last year. Instead of improving, the situation gets worse every day. One out of six people in the world goes hungry every day.

Ironically, this situation exists not because there is less food produced, but because the income of the poor and their opportunity for employment has decreased – therefore decreasing their ability to afford proper nourishment.

This is the explanation given by the general director of the FAO, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, on World Food Day. It is ironic that World Food Day is being celebrated with these figures.

It reminds us also, and the authorities should be very conscious of this, that world economic problems that make maintaining employment more difficult, do not only affect people who work in offices, banks, and factories, but also in rural areas where 70% of the world’s hungry live and work.

At the same time, the prices of agricultural supplies have increased geometrically: fertilizers by 176% and seeds by 70%; this makes acquiring them by big and small farmers that much more difficult, setting off a vicious cycle that results in less or more expensive production in the short term. In sub-Saharan Africa more than 80% of the prices of cereal grains are over 25% higher than they were two years ago. In Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean between 40 and 80% of the prices of cereal grains are 25% more expensive than they were two years ago. And, as a result of the lower demand in developed countries, what is produced is harder to sell or sold at lower prices, without benefiting the poor, whom the food does not reach anyway.

The remittances of emigrants that previously grew at a rate of 20% annually, and that in 2008 totaled $300 billion, have decreased by between five and eight percent, or in other words by $15 billion to $24 billion.
Furthermore, foreign aid by developed countries to the 71 poorest countries in the world decreased by about 25%. Combining all of these indices paints a bleak picture for the poor and puts at great risk the chance of reaching the goal of reducing by half the number of hungry people by 2015. Even if that ambitious goal is met, there would still be 420 million hungry human beings daily, without taking into account the fact that in the year 2050 the world population will reach nine billion – more than 2.5 billion more than today.

The attention given to the development of sustainable agriculture with an emphasis on medium- and small-scale farmers is a vital necessity – not only because of the basic need to feed human beings, of whom the poor are the primary victims, but also for the sake of global security itself.

Translated to English by Sophia Anderson.

While a major earthquake and a political crisis have brought Honduras, home to The Adelante Foundation, into the international spotlight in recent months, a much more insidious tragedy has been threatening the livelihoods of over one million Hondurans, especially in rural areas where over half of the population lives.  The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has had its attention on Honduras and neighboring countries such as Guatemala where a state of emergency has been declared.

Here in Honduras between 200,000 and 300,000 families (well over 1 million people) are suffering from food insecurity and the number continues to rise.  In addition to the increase in food costs as a result of last year’s drastic rise in the price of fuel, the main culprit is the “El Niño” climatic phenomenon which has caused a drought that has scorched corn, bean and vegetable crops in south-central parts of the country – especially in the departments of Yoro, Lempira, Francisco Morazán, Valle and Choluteca.

“Food insecurity” is defined by the FAO as “insufficient ingestion of food, which can be transitory, seasonal, or chronic.”  Angel Murillo, of the FAO, explained that in many parts of Honduras people consume only one of the three typical daily meals, and furthermore their diet consists almost exclusively of five products: coffee, sugar, corn, shortening, and beans.

Most families who have lost one crop already this year are dreading the upcoming planting season because if the bad weather persists they will not be able to plant and will have to eat the seeds instead, leaving themselves with nothing for next year.  This brings to light their lack of access to agricultural technology such as irrigation systems that would keep them from being so dependent on the weather.

The current drought and resulting famine emphasize the importance of Adelante’s work in the rural areas of Honduras.  One of the most common results of their increased income reported by our clients is an improvement in their families’ diets.  Furthermore, by diversifying their income sources their food supply becomes less vulnerable to natural climatic fluctuations.  Many of our clients previously lived exclusively off of a small parcel of land; now they have their own income-generating businesses that give them the flexibility to buy some of the food they prepare for themselves and their families.

By Sophia Anderson (Statistics taken from “Carencia de alimentos golpea a 300 mil hogares.” Diario La Prensa 10/22/09)

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